Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Body of Work

How often do I promote a pattern 12 hours after seeing it online? (OK, other than with Brooklyn Tweed offerings...)

I have a very good feeling about this:

Closet Case Files - Nettie Skirt and Body Suit

Fun fact: Heather Lou, the designer of this fab pattern, lives in Montreal (on the Plateau, if her outside pics are anything to go by). Nothing screams Mtl more than a body suit. Peeps, it's the ultimate layer. And it's non-negotiably chic, as the Mtl ladies must be.

Look, I'm the original body-suit (aka body, for those of you living in the UK!) wearer. I freakin' love the long, sleek line.

Why does the body suit flatter?
  • It maximizes length of waist and minimizes waist bulk.
  • It creates the sense of waist curve, even on straight frames.
  • It's sleek.
  • It's an excellent layering piece.
  • It's so disco - in the best way!
Unless you carry rolls around the waist - and as long as you wear an EXCELLENTLY fitted bra - the body suit flatters practically everyone. Really, don't fuck around with the bra. If it fits badly, you'll look hideous in this style of top. Natch, if you're towards the flat end of the spectrum, make the backless version and go braless. I'm not trying to interfere with your small-chested fun.

Because I have a summer's worth of projects lined up (post coming soon), I don't think I can queue this quickly, but I'm watching for all of your versions and feedback and posts. And I do imagine it's going to be a late summer weekend project for me. I can see this becoming a staple.

So, whatcha think?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Guns Ablazin'

I'm running on so much adrenaline right now, I feel I have the heart of a gerbil. Honestly, who needs cocaine when you have my natural predisposition.

Lord, where to start?

Well, everything on the planet arrived by post today. That hideous bridesmaid dress redo from my sister? Check. 63 swatches of fabric? Check. New fabric from Fabrications? Check. New jeans (story to follow below)? Check.

Then there's the fact that y'all are fantastic and you've made my foray into leather (does that sound dirty?) a super-fun, totally relatable experience. I've got a lot to tell on this topic, but I just want to say thank you to every person who's taken the time to tweet, comment, email or call. It's because of your support that I have every intention of making not only a skirt but also a bag!

The Leather Files

Last night I researched the best prices (not that there are so many options with a refurbished machine from 1978) for a walking foot and a roller foot for my Viking 190. I've now got both on delivery. Etsy, peeps. It's your friend.

I also bought cold tape (on Gail's advice) it's an adhesive twill tape, made for soft leather, to stabilize seams.

Many of you have suggested great sites for bag patterns. Hot Patterns and Bag'n-telle are two great places to start, as are your Pinterest pages. Um, apparently I wasn't a member of Pinterest until yesterday. I think I got it mixed up with Instagram (which I also don't use).

Sara and Gail told me I'd have to sign up for Making Leather Bags (Don Morin) on Craftsy. I'm not known for my frugalness, but after having spent a bomb on everything leather, I told them it would go on the list for the next sale. Um, the Craftsy peeps, who are always trying to get me to buy, sent me a 12-hour sale coupon this afternoon and I got the 50 dollar course for $19.99. The website pleasantly informed me that it's a savings of 61%. It was hard not to buy every other class that Craftsy teaches, but really, I don't get enough use out of them in general.

Now, while I love the idea of making a bag, as you can see, I do not think I'm going to do it with the very soft electric blue lambskin. I don't think that fabric will have enough stability; it's perfect weight for a pencil skirt and really, I know how to make a skirt from my TNT. I need to put in the time with some other leather (and vinyl to start!) before I think of spending material of that quality on a bag of my own making.

Mind you, if I have a knack with bags, I think we may have a new compulsion to write about.

The Bridesmaid Files

How little can I say about this? The dress arrived. It's horrid. The fabric from India (extra to remake the bodice) still isn't here, but this is a start. I've got to pick the dress bodice from the skirt (which is fortunately so big that I can reuse it) but I don't think I'll start till the other fabric gets here.

The Jeans Files

OMG people, OMG. OMG. I did something crazy - bought jeans, sight unseen from America - both an expensive and crazy experiment - and I won!

I did send them to my mother for delivery to me in TO, because Nordstrom - while they like to tell you they're in it to win over Canadians - charges 30% more (for shipping and non-refundable brokerage) and they cannot tell you how much it will cost to return an item until you've bought it. Yeah, you read that right. I was told there would be a brokerage-determined restocking fee, that they'd be able to advise me about when and if I were to undertake the return process. Um, fuck that, Nordstrom.

This is the post that convinced me I had to try. (Note: I discovered afterwards that blogger is 6'2".)  Look, that woman is the most gorgeous thing you've ever seen, but I have to say, I think the jeans look better on me.

I DO NOT KNOW how they can make me a willowy sexpot?! My ass is awesome. My stomach flat. My legs are elegant pins. The denim is fantastic. The construction is better. If I can say all of this given how I feel 80 per cent of the time these days, you know these things are a must-have. Really, I might need to try another style soon.

OK, TO ladies, do not despair. There's a new store that opened up on College and they sell the full, fabulous line. Alas, the price tag is $160 pre-tax in our town. But, had I known, I would most definitely have bought locally. At the boutique (the name of which I cannot remember), I did try on the same style I bought online (Lauren)- and I was pretty pleased to see that I'd called it right on the size. This was a very enjoyable online experience.

The Fabric Files

These are my newest woven fabrics (meant to simulate the burgundy fabric I used to make the original Rosie Top muslins) which I'll use to make the next versions of the fledgling Rosie:

Garnet Silk Rayon from Fabrications

That online thumbnail does not do justice to this beautiful (and not dissimilar) fabric. And the natural stretch content is perfect.

Patterned Rayon from Fabrications
This rayon fabric is also lovely, but the stretch content and drape are not the same. Since this was my muslin fabric option, I suppose it'll be fine, but I'm not going to be able to extrapolate as well from it, fit-wise, as I would like.

Oh, and really, nice rayon is great fabric, but it has nothing on silk crepe.

Given that I'm not into reds, I find it interesting that I've gone for 2, predominantly red fabrics. I wonder what that means... Note: They're reds that work with my complexion.

The Swatch Files

I wish I had the energy to photograph the ZILLIONS of gorgeous swatches I have to consider. I never intend to be without adequate stash again (muahhahahaha). I'm sure more to come on this topic.

So that's me today. I'm happily overwhelmed by creative endeavours and things to learn. And I didn't even tell you about the new sweater I started knitting over the weekend!??!??!? Well, that's what the next post is for.

Today's questions: Have you tried IT Collective denim and, if yes, what did you think? How do you like my new fabrics? What do you think of my idea to get new leather for a bag? Let's talk!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Blue Streak

The title of this post refers both to my sharp ability to buy fabric, these days, and a constant sense of malaise that I cannot seem to shake. Yesterday, having decided I'm on hiatus from parenting because it's fucking thankless, I opted to spend the entire day - morning till night - out in the city. I knit and took breakfast at Fika, had a snack at Terroni, shopped the garment district and went looking for yarn with Sara, discovered something hilarious (which I'm saving for another post about denim - but it involves buying denim from Nordstrom in America though the brand is now sold down the block from me). I perused all of the boutique windows. I went out for drinks and dinner with Sandra. Then I went out for more drinks with Sandra. I walked 10 square miles.

One thing I'll say, if you want to save money, don't go out in the city from morning till night.

To wit:

This is the first time I've bought leather. I haven't felt confident to work with it in the past. I barely feel confident now though many have told me that it's no harder than working with fabric. These skins are like butter with an electric hue that would stop traffic. I don't know what kind of animal this comes from (maybe I should have asked). Each piece is about the same size (they both have a 6 and a 2 stamped on the back). Each was 30 bucks.

It's enough leather to make 2 bags or a skirt and I don't know which would be the better use of a truly sublime material.

Pros of Making Skirt:
  • I know how to make a skirt and I have a great TNT.
  • Who has a butter soft leather skirt in electric blue for 60 bucks??? Seriously, that would cost 800 bucks in a shop, given the quality of this skin.
Pros of Making Bag:
  • I have enough leather to make 2 medium-sized bags, the first of which I could iron out the kinks and give away as a gift. 
Potential Challenges in Making a Bag:
  • I have no idea of how to make a bag and I don't know if this is the material to practice on. I mean, it's soft and forgiving and I do have 2 skins, but maybe I need to start with less special leather.
  • I haven't seen any patterns that appeal to me. I want to make a very chic bag which simulates a modern shape such as either of these:

Rough and Tumble Sling Bag
Admittedly, I haven't done much research of bag patterns as yet, but what I've found is very "fabric tote for carrying baby things" or messenger bag. If anyone can point me in the direction of patterns like the bags I've linked to above, I'd so appreciate it. BTW - I can branch out from these shapes, but I don't want something that looks like a suburban fabric carry-all. Now that I'm wearing flats, I cannot drop the ball with the bag!

Today's Questions (and I really need your feedback!): What's your favourite bag pattern? Have you made a leather bag and, if yes, how did it go? What other notions might I require (i.e. leather needles)? Do you think that very soft leather can hold up to a bag (if it's lined)? Fuck, how do you line a bag??? I know Craftsy has a course but I find I don't put those to very good use. I prefer online resources - websites or YouTube - cuz they tend to be quicker. I hate those Craftsy waste-of-time bumpers.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Weekend Bound (And a Diatribe of Sorts)

I'm looking towards the weekend, as it pours with rain and hovers at 7C. This year has been hateful, weather-wise. At this point, I believe that it is actually affecting the ability of most to function normally. It's like we've all be stuck on a ship in the middle of the sea for 7 months. (That, for what it's worth, is the amount of time during which I've been wearing gloves.) People here are so crazy that every fucking patio in the downtown core was open for dinner yesterday (an unusual day in that there was sun) - as it hovered at 10C. I saw crazy Canadians removing their gloves to pick up forks. And I could almost get with it.

No doubt, affected by weather-induced malaise, I've got a few things to report:
Neither my new fabric (for the next round of the Rosie top) nor my sister's dress and fabric (for that hideous bridesmaid experience) have arrived this week. That means I've got nothing doing on the sewing front. I could sew, but I busted my ass for 5 days last (long) weekend and it was not easy sewing. I don't know that I've got the fortitude to hole up again.

My final sewing goal of last weekend, while it was no more enjoyable than any other sewing activity of that weekend, was a tremendous success. The Lady Skater Dress is all that and a bag of chips. It's nicely drafted and, once I altered the armscye, arm width and sleeve head, everything else was perfectly proportioned for me. That's to say, I do believe this is drafted for a short woman with a short waist and curves. I think it's also well-suited to the larger ladies because the unaltered pattern version of the arms and armscye unit are not cut small and narrow. This is corroborated by the versions, made by plus size bloggers, which look terrific.

To give you some sense of it, after I spent 30 minutes altering the arm unit (as per my knit top sloper), I did not make one other alteration. The arm unit is a size 1. The rest of the dress is a size 4. The waist height was perfect. The bust depth, perfect. The skirt length, perfect. In my world, this was a pretty seamless process.

OK, in truth, this garment came close to being eaten by a serger more times than I'd like to say - and I managed to fuck up so many ways by reading instructions when I should have just done things the way I knew they would work. Don't misunderstand, the instructions aren't bad, they're just too detailed and too fussy. Here's what you do: Make a T shirt. Add a skirt. Don't overthink it by looking at fussy photos.

What's utterly miraculous - and I will tell more of the story when I take pics of myself wearing this insanely flattering garment (to follow when the weather permits me to wear it) - is that I had only 1.5 yards of striped fabric (65" wide) and I still managed to get a 3/4 sleeve dress with no skirt shortening. And I pattern-matched like a fucking star.  Honestly, this is a coup.

I'm also saving the photos because I've opted to use this dress as my contribution to Clio's Sew Sexy Sew Along. It may be simple but it looks terrific because it fits fantastically. It brings out the sexy!

One final thing I'll say right now about the Lady Skater (man, I wish they'd chosen a better name...): At this point, I would recommend it over the new Colette Patterns Moneta.

How can I say this authoritatively, having not set eyes on the Moneta pattern? Well, I've sewn a lot of Colette Patterns and I've always felt that the drafted fit leaves much to be desired. While the instructions are good (and the marketing superb), I find the drafting clumsy. Of course, any brand is apt to work better for some than for others but, really, I've seen too many unflattering versions of too many Colette patterns on too many differently-shaped people. As the cult of Colette takes tighter hold, I feel I've got to tell it like I see it. (Furthermore, I'm entirely prepared to mea culpa if I start to see a zillion gorgeous versions of the Moneta. Not that it will change my opinion about lots of other Colette offerings.)

By contrast, I have not seen one bad version of the Lady Skater on anyone.

I don't find the Moneta attractive on the plus-size model (an obviously gorgeous woman) - so I don't have much hope that, unaltered, it's going to fit the average lady much better. The bodice veers too closely toward empire to flatter those with large breasts and wide rib cages. The gathers at the skirt are juvenile-seeming and they add bulk.

The Lady Skater is a very sleek fit. It works wonders to disguise the lumps and to highlight the curves. The drafting of the skirt produces a perfect hang. Natch - use the best fabric you can find! If you use crap T shirting with no recovery and little stretch, it's not going to end well... The trick with T shirt dresses is to spend a FORTUNE on the fabric. Trust me.

I mean, if you're game, please buy both the Lady Skater and the Moneta, make the both and tell me how it goes! But I don't expect I'll be undertaking that experiment for myself.

I have a lot more to say on other topics(what else is new) but I feel I should leave it here and pick up in another post. This has been a lot of words (and no pretty pics).

But before I go... Today's questions: Which appeals to you more - the Moneta or the Lady Skater? Have you made either or both? Do you prefer one over the other? Let's talk!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spring Sewing: Rosie Top - All the Other Muslins to Come

Do not think I've lost my interest in fitting the Rosie top, though truly I am coming to hate the process (as I always do). This is fitting a woven bodice, after all.

Fact is, I ran out of the burgundy fabric. Instead I used some butterfly charmeuse, alotted for lining. It has about the same stretch and it's drapey - but in every other way it's all wrong. It was a bitch to sew, it's shiny and slippery. Ugh. Really, 90 per cent of the time, one should use stash fabric for the purpose intended.

Needless to say that the butterfly fabric version is yet another muslin. Which it would have to be, even if I liked the fabric, because the fit is nightmarish in a whole new series of ways.

Seriously, when I read posts about pants-fitting, and the fitee in question is losing her mind because the scenario (given her proportions) is so challenging, I feel nothing but empathy. That sewist's developed upper legs or wide derriere or shelf-hips or sloped waist or thick calves are analagous to my boobs (which seem to pop off the front of my chest like alien creatures as soon as a woven fabric is involved) and my super short/high armscye.

People, this is painful and I don't know how it's going to end. I can simply say that I'll keep going...

So, what happens next?

Well, I just spent 45 minutes on the phone with Fabrications (best customer service ever, not joking) ordering 5 yards of silk crepe and rayon challis (both of which have the same amount of stretch as the burgundy fabric that is, so sadly, gone). That's enough to make 3 more Rosies. Theoretically, two will be muslins and one will be a beautifully-fitted, finished garment. But I'm prepared to accept that they may all be muslins. I have to wait for my fabric to arrive before I can make another of these - a week I suspect.

(Side Note: My sister is in the wedding party of a mega bridezilla who made her buy a dress on Etsy that is a) hideous and b) horrendously fitted. My sister's hysteria, bolstered by photos that show the truth of things, has inspired me to refit the dress in advance of the upcoming wedding. Point is, as soon as that dress, and a bit of extra fabric, arrive in the post, it's going to be all sewing for others, all the time - if with short turn-around.)

What I've Learned from Muslin 4:
  • I had to lower the bust apex by another inch. Ahem. Let's not discuss this.
  • I had to do my ever-present "small bust adjustment" above my "large bust adustment". That means that, given my full bust is 38" and my upper bust is 33.5", I get a lot of fabric pooling above the full bust to the neckline. I've had to take 0.5 inches off of each princess seam above the full bust. Don't know if this will be enough but it's a start.
  • I had to adjust some seam lines - I forgot that darting the side front would shorten the armscye. Given that there's a kimono sleeve, I've just opted to shorten the back sleeve at the underarm. Of course, this might not be optimal, but we'll have to wait and see.
Potential Alterations that I won't be able to confirm till I make the next muslin (you can't do too much at one time or you can't keep everything straight):
  • I also might have a big problem - but I'm not going to know until I make this round of revisions: I might need to pull out more fabric from the armscye in a dart that, currently, goes to the bust apex - effectively spanning 2 pieces. I don't know how I'll do this on the front piece in such a way that I can actually close the dart. This would be less concerning on a garment that doesn't already have a (conflicting) princess seam joining two pieces together.  
  • I suspect I'm going to need to make the waist smaller again.
  • I might need to make the peplum longer.
  • And finally, those princess seams really are trickily positioned. I might have to realign them (closer together - by removing width from the front piece, Lord help me).
So you can see, I'm basically making my own top, with some nice bits of pattern paper from StyleArc. You can take comfort knowing that this will certainly be easier for anybody else than it has been for me.

I should disclose that I'm not looking at fitting books during this process. I find them confusing. I've come to realize that I need to make things and fit them on my body, as many times as it takes. Flat pattern alterations are meaningless to me if I can't see how they come about by draping the fabric over my own body. I'm pleased to say, though, that I've picked up a lot by reading when I'm not in the sewing fray: lowering the bust apex, for example. (Well, I'll disclose that I didn't look it up but I remembered how to cut the too-high apex out of the pattern piece (in a little box) and lower it to the desired height.)

If I choose to view this process as a weird experiment that takes a bunch of fabric, lots of time and the creative impulse, well, then I cannot lose. I promise I'll keep you posted.

Till then, I've got a knit to sew up.

Just Give In

I'm a fan girl and I don't care who knows it:

This is the latest offering from the Brooklyn Tweed collective - Wool People 7.

Honestly, I can't tell you how aspirational I find this brand. How I wish I were a minimalist knit design, former architect with roots in Brooklyn who lives off the grid in New Hampshire, but it doesn't matter because all of my sweaters are insanely warm and also chic so who needs central heat? (Yeah, I know off-the-grid peeps have heat but go with it, ok?)

These people make knitting cool. So cool.

So, today's question: Which is your fave new pattern? (I'm going with Coda, though it happens to be designed by that same woman who designed the polka dot shawl I loathed making. Mind you, it wasn't a bad pattern and the finished object is rather impressive...)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Spring Sewing: Rosie Top - The Next Muslin

I don't know what made me think I'd only need to make one muslin of this Rosie top but, man, it is a production. By contrast, I'd rather muslin pants any day of the week...

On the plus side, it's a fascinating process. Really. My bodice proportion is SO renegade.

I'm am grateful to have just about enough of my burgundy fabric left to give it one more go - because so much of this fit is tied up in the beautiful crepe. Part of me is horrified that I may sacrifice it all to muslin but, really, this fabric is doing yeoman's work and we're in it together. Were I to use a new fabric, I'd practically have to start from scratch. Do not be misled, my next life plan is to find mega-drapey, top-weight woven (crepe - silk or otherwise) with 20-25% mechanical stretch (or lycra - I'll take lycra!). And then I'm buying it, shipping be damned.

But let's have a look at the insanity, yes?

Rosie Top modified as per dictates of muslin 2. This is the pattern for the next muslin (or wearable top?!)
Alterations as per the info provided by muslin 2:
  • I added back all the width of the original pattern at the peplum hem (the pattern refers to it as "the skirt"). Mind you, I didn't add it all back at the waist.
  • In fact, this time I had to take out an inch, over all, from the side seams at the waist. I've decided I want a fitted top, nay, I require a fitted top, so I'm going to insert a side zip at the waist. I suspect, if you are hourglass shaped and you desire a top that isn't shapeless in the waist (to allow you to get it over your bust), you're going to need to do a side zip or make this in a true knit (like ponte).
  • I lengthened the back skirt to reflect the 2 inches I removed from the back waist. It was coming up too short.
  • I lowered the bust apex by 2 inches. So much for "it's not cut high in the bust!". Note: I did dart at the armscye (between muslin 1 and muslin 2) so that raised the apex artificially - though not by 2 inches, I'm sure.
  • The full bust was ridiculously tight. When I vertically slashed the muslin, to see what would happen, I discovered I need another 2.5 inches of extra width at the apex of my bust.
  • This time, the princess seams were ridiculously wide - splayed to the outside of my breasts. I can see how someone else had this issue. If you have a small bust, chances are that all you need to do is make the front piece (top left of the photo) narrower. However, as I seem to have to add another 2.5 inches to the full bust (I know, it's insane) this makes things that much more tricky, given that I want that seam to go over the bust, or very close to it. My only recourse is to add width onto the side front piece (top centre of the photo). First I removed some volume I'd added to the front piece above the bust (unnecessary). Then I lengthened the front piece by 0.75 inch to account for the extra length required in light of the alterations of the side front piece.
  • I realize that the new bust curve on the side front piece looks insane, I'd prefer to create it over 2 seams (front and side front), as is the usual technique, but that's not going to narrow the princess seams.* I mean, it's going to be an interesting exercise in easing, if nothing else. Thing is, the waist on this is high (not empire, but definitely at the "real" waist). Given that I've got a short waist and large tits, I don't have a lot of room to maneuver. The way this will work for me is in that it will be incredibly fitted under the bust (see that dip below full bust moving towards the waist).
  • Updated to reflect further consideration: While I didn't narrow the front piece from the centre (see asterisk below), given that I'd already widened it by an inch (wherein it went from being a good width to too wide), I removed the extra inch and added it, where? Well onto that side front piece. So now it looks even more curvy insane than it does in the photo above. But the princess seam should sit where I want it to.
By the way, I have no idea of what the next muslin will reveal. I felt confident that I'd resolved the issues on the (last) garment but it was destined to become muslin 2. So, I take it, I've got to keep an open mind. What does it matter how long it takes me to fix this? If and when I do make a woven top that fits, I'll have that much more information at my access - which will only help me when next I decide to tackle a woven bodice.

In the meanwhile, that's why we have knits.


* It just occurred to me that I could have narrowed the front piece at the centre (removing inch, for example) and then adding on to the front piece side seams on either side. That would have allowed me to put the extra space on either side of the princess seam. But that seems unnecessarily convoluted. Of course, it may have displaced the volume better and would make the sewing of that insane princess seam less complicated...

Spring Sewing: Rosie Top, The Muslin

I made a muslin of the Rosie Top and it's actually very interesting.

As it happens, I might have been just as well off making the original pattern in lieu of my very altered one. It would have been better in some ways (though worse in others).

What I altered in the muslin:
  • I removed a 2-inch, horizontal wedge of fabric from the centre back.
  • Narrowed the shoulders.
  • Narrowed the waist circumference, over a variety of seams, by 6 inches.
  • I decided to forgo the facing, in favour of self-made bias binding around the neck. I loathe facing.
What I need to do next time: 
  • For starters, I have to replace a good 4 inches of the six I removed in the waist. That was a sound alteration, but I totally overdid it given that one's supposed to be able to put this on like a T shirt (and that waist seam was not going over the boobs!). Note: I'm willing to put in a side zip if it gives me a fitted look I prefer...
  • The centre back alteration worked really well. I might need to refine it (once I see how everything else plays out) but I sense that's a good plan, in general. The bias binding also works very well in lieu of facing.
  • Although the shoulder shortening is not unattractive, it does make the sleeves a bit shorter than I'd like. So I have reversed that alteration.
  • Additionally, somehow I still have to add 2 inches to the full bust circumference so I added this at 1 inch over both sides of each princess seam.
  • I also added a dart at the front armscye (on the side front piece, slanting towards the bust apex). I've discovered that this is de rigeur with woven bodices. In order to get the full bust to fit, I often need to add volume at the side bust. That's fine, but it over-impacts the armscye given that my armsyce is very high and short.
What I really appreciate about this top:
  • My disbelief notwithstanding, it's a beautifully drafted pattern. The shoulders are not wide, even as the technical drawing makes it seem that they might be.
  • It's super simple to construct. You can make and use bias binding practically as easily as cutting and sewing in the facing.
  • The bust apex isn't drafted stupidly high (like for flat-chested teens).
  • My crepe fabric is a perfect choice for this top - it has a good amount of mechanical stretch and a gorgeous drape. The colour is rich - although not one I often wear (burgundy). It sews beautifully and serges just as well.
  • You can make practically the entire thing on your serger, with the exception of top stitching a few seams. 
  • It's very neat on the inside, because it's simple.
I'm not insane. I deliberately decided to tackle this woven top very specifically. It has a back seam, to facilitate fit in the back waist. I used a drapey, naturally stretchy woven, not a thick, stiff fabric. I made a muslin (in the same fabric as the finished garment will be made in) to avoid fabric variables on the next attempt. I used a pattern with princess seams - which are relatively easy to alter to increase the full bust circumference. I used a pattern with a defined waist. Even if made to fit "loosely", the waist seam provides definition.

And, as a result, although I'm not sure that the next one will be perfect, I do hope that it's wearable.

This top is chicer than I thought it would be. It will look great with a suit or with jeans and it nicely covers the part of one's stomach that one might choose to downplay.

Today or tomorrow, I intend to finish the next version. Stay tuned for more...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spring Sewing: Rosie Top and Lady Skater Dress (And Another Issy)

I've got an extra long weekend and I'm trying to make the most of it, sewing-wise.

Yesterday I put together another version of the Issy top (photo to follow - I can only do so many things at once and I'm overwhelmed by the tracing and cutting and marking and sewing etc.). Alas, it was a miserable process. The finished top is wearable, but has the wrong-side look of drunken mice at work.

I have to say, I will not be making the Issy again any time soon. This is my third one. The first is a massive hit, which is why I threw caution to the wind of my crap spatial reasoning to make the second (with alterations). The second was a failure for a bunch of reasons, not least of which was alteration-related. This time, I went back to the original pattern. In my coral rayon jersey, it fits in the neck perfectly and doesn't do what the leopard-print does (neckband falls backwards slightly over time). The good news is that the issue, I believe, is in the leopard-print fabric rather than in my construction. The bad news is that, nonetheless, I had to go through the same, hideous pain this time as I've experienced in the construction of each Issy top. My brain just doesn't understand what the fuck is going on. The instructions (stupidly basic to begin with) are useless cuz I trashed them with my iron. So the whole thing is like a nightmare of endless attempts and ripping out. Doesn't make me want to wear the finished garment but I hope that I'll get over it.

On the plus side, the coral fabric is truly delicious - soft, perfectly drapey and stretchy enough to hide the worst of it.

But moving on, I have plans to make 2 other garments this weekend:

StyleArc Rosie Top

Lady Skater by Kitschy Koo
It appears that practically no one's made the Rosie - last month's free pattern from StyleArc. Admittedly I wouldn't have bought it (given that I rarely wear woven tops). On the other hand, there's no one left who hasn't made the Lady Skater...

Thoughts About The Rosie Top:

This one is truly a wild card. I have NO idea of how to alter woven bodices to achieve the desired outcome. That didn't stop me from spending 2 hours altering the size 10 down to something in the neighbourhood of a size 4 ??? May I remind you that I don't make woven tops because I'm super small in the shoulders and far less small in the bust? Thing is, I did the math (ok, potentially incorrectly) and this would be a tent in its original format. Natch, I didn't make the bust any smaller!! But I've taken 6 inches out of the waist and an inch from the shoulders. It's a loose-fitting garment but 46" at the waist (for a size 10) is absurd.

Now, I'm not hopeful. It would be stupid to be hopeful given my lack of experience with wovens and the seemingly-incomprehensible sizing of the pattern. Mind you, gotta start somewhere. And the pattern was free!

I'm going to use a crepe with some stretch, recently gifted to me by S (my fitting friend). It's very light fabric in burgundy. We'll have to see how it goes but I've got enough to make a muslin and then another version - always the best plan of attack when you don't know what you're doing with fit.

I'll go into fitting in detail once I've made the Rosie, if it isn't an abject failure, but the main thing I've done is to remove a wedge of 2 inches from the centre back waist-length. I can do this because there's a centre back seam. Effectively I just took out a horizontal dart and closed it (adjusting the base of the bodice to maintain the lines). I haven't touched the length of the front bodice because I have to assume (as with all tops), I'll need more length there to compensate for the boobs. Mind you, the side seams are the same length, front and back, so one hopes (even if the proportions are off) that the alteration is sound.

Thoughts About The Lady Skater Dress

I scarcely know what I can say about this that hasn't been said already. OK, I'm game: The envelope drawing is a real deterrent to purchasing this pattern. I'm glad that so many others have shown that it's a lovely finished garment. Furthermore, it's a pdf download. I'm more willing than some to tape 22 pages (especially if it means I don't have to trace) but the lines were somewhat off, which really offended my sense of order. I mean, it's fixable with some attention to the grain, but really... On a side note, it appears that the newly-released Colette Patterns Moneta is pretty-well the same pattern. I'm intrigued to hear about how people feel one compares to the other.

I reviewed the unaltered Lady Skater pattern against my T shirt sloper and I had to make massive changes to the armscyes and sleeves. My sleeves and armscye are actually a size 1 (smallest) while the bust and waist remain a size 4. I had to change the angle of the shoulder seam dramatically - and to cut about an inch off the depth of the armscye and sleeve head. Happily, I knew this before cutting into my fabric. Slopers for the win (we hope).

Now, thing is, the dress requires about 2 yards of fabric for the size 4, 3/4 length sleeve version. I've got a 1.5 yards of stripes. It's going to take some serious layout skill to make this happen while pattern-matching striped fabric. Having said that, my version is really more of a size 1 than a size 4. And I'm willing to fuck with the volume and grainlines of the skirt as I have to.

Ridiculously, I don't have 2 yards of any T shirt fabric in the stash. The minute I buy it, it's gone and I cannot justify buying another piece of fabric till I've used at least 8 yards of the stash. Why? Cuz it's only economical to buy 6+ yards online (re: shipping) - which is where the best of the T shirting comes from. And I don't have space for that volume in the cupboard at this point.

At any rate, please tell me what you think of these pattern choices. Do you like them? Have you made them? Did you find either completely nutty size-wise? Let's talk!

Lingerie Review: Lana by Empreinte

Spring fever is a bitch - especially in the absence of spring.* But what can I do? I'm compelled - with all the extra light and the fact that I'm biologically predisposed to have done away with hats, gloves and scarves at this point. I'm fixated on gaiety and buds and breezes (vs gales).

The whimsical bras are calling to me.

I feel it's wrong to review one favourite brand (Cleo By Panache) without giving equal attention to Empreinte, my other love. So, in an act of sombre public service, I purchased this:

Empreinte Lana
(To clarify, I purchased only the set, sadly, not that awesome body.)

Here's the thing: Empreinte does but one thing suboptimally, and that is pricing. Otherwise, there's nothing but hysterical praise for this new set.

The Details:
  • Really, I could wear this thing for 15 hours and it would still be comfortable...
  • The lift and shape are unparalleled. It's slightly less front and centre than Cleo offerings, but so natural and high. In terms of support, there is no brand that can compare. If you have heavy breasts, no problem. They'll look like clouds in this bra!
  • Where Cleo falls down (in strap width/comfort/strength and band width), Empreinte excels. The bra has 3 hooks and eyes, so the band is firm and comfortable without having to be tight in any way. The straps are invisibly padded under the fabric. They don't look thick, but they are firm and soft.
  • The materials are gorgeous. This style is very "fun" by Empreinte standards. It isn't laden with lace and sensuous, dark motifs. But that lace is still beautifully soft while being ridiculously strong. The checked fabric is silken and delicate. On this topic, I still have no idea how this brand manages to get the softest, most delicate fabrics to act like a tank.
  • The undies (I got the thong) are adorable with off-centre buttons. They are seriously well-fitting and sexy, while still being cute!
  • You might think the fabric looks a bit picnic-basket, but - I swear - it's not like that! The background colour is cream with pink undertones and the check is blush (for want of a better word). The added lace (in perfect proportion) makes this very feminine, but not "youthful" in the Cleo way. What I mean is, no worries about looking like part of the teen set.
I did learn that Empreinte has discontinued another of its best styles - the Ophelia. In the words of the SA who told me this (yeah, I did buy the Lana at full price, in store), Empreinte is making some bad choices. This is the second beautiful, deep, seriously sexy style they've cancelled in the last year. The other is the Lola. The thing is, many of the styles they've newly developed are not suited to the very deep shape they're famous for fitting. Some of the newer styles are more round (as is the popular shape in North America), with very high gores (not great if the bra is shallow and breasts are close set). They're also trying their hand at styles with fewer seams. Yeah, that may appeal to a certain crowd, but it fucks with fit - and it's so much less sexy...

Anyway, go get yourself an Ophelia while you still can. Seriously.

So, thoughts and feelings about this set? Would you wear it? Do you like it? Let's talk!

*Today is going to be sunny and 15C - woohoo!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lingerie Review: Cleo Ellis

So, you know I've spent the last 3 weeks spring cleaning. It's been mainly by necessity - certainly not from natural enthusiasm. There's nothing like finding 4 sweaters with holes and a moth to change the trajectory of one's free time for a month.

In case you're wondering, yes - I have over-reacted.

But, I've also managed to cull about 40 items (conservative estimate) from my wardrobe, as I've cleaned, mended and reorganized.

Sure, I imagine, were I to count - and I'm getting almost curious enough to take on this ridiculous exercise - I'd have 20 skirts and 20 dresses and 40 sweaters and 10 pairs of jeans - for starters. But I really enjoy everything and most of it fits (except for a small collection which is a size up or a size down, just to be practical).

I'm actually rather pleased to know what's what, and to be able to see it all easily.

Disclaimer: I have always been a rather organized and tidy person (with a strong, orderly aesthetic) so my closet, while now more minimal, is really not any prettier than it was before.

One of the areas I've culled excessively is the lingerie drawer. As my body has changed over the past couple of years, I find that many of my sets are no longer as supportive as they need to be. I've also gone up approximately a cup size - so the bras that were on the smaller size in my wardrobe, are now too small. Are they wearable? Yes. Will I wear them? Not a chance.

On this topic: Stay tuned for another bra "sale" in the near future.

I mean, don't start crying for me. I still have more beautifully-fitted, gorgeous bras than any human being requires. But now the drawer seems a little bit lacking in something, how shall we say it?, new and fun.

It seems the only two brands I buy anymore are Cleo and Empreinte. Empreinte brings out the European sexpot in me (with unparalleled shape and support) while Cleo hits the fun spot.

Lots of peeps are pissed that Cleo can't seem to make a bra that even vaguely nods at neutral. I hear those angsty cries, but I LOVE the insane patterns that this brand produces again and again and again.

To wit:

Photo courtesy of Miss Underpinnings (you should read her post...)
Once I had a lot of pink in the cupboard. Now, I need some more!

Is this not perfect for spring??

This bra fits very similarly to the Melissa and the Bella - both of which I own and which I've reviewed (click on the links).

If anything, this version of the style is the best fitting of them all so far - though I have achieved very good, "boobs on a plate" fit in every Cleo bra I've bought in this size. The bands are quite tight so consider sizing up. I wear a 32 and, while I'm getting used to it, I use an extender.

You should know that not all Cleos are constructed the same. The Lucy, for example, works better for wider, bottom-heavy breasts (in the scheme of things - the line does cater to narrow roots).

But, if you have narrow roots of standard height (see the link, above, on Melissa for more about this lingo) and very projected, even-to-full-on-top breasts, this might be the brand for which you thank your lucky stars.

Did I mention that it's totally affordable? I got the set on eBay for 50 bucks, all in. Please. (It almost offsets the hysteria-inducing prices of Empreinte.)

Some Details:
  • The pattern is as gorgeous in real life as in photos.
  • The bra is comfortable - but note that the band size runs quite small in Cleo bras.
  • The fabrics are supremely supportive because there's NO stretch in them of any sort. Having said that, they can be stiff at first. The fabric is never going to be luxe. Mind you, it feels luxer than any mid-priced brand I've tried.
  • The undies are standard issue with this cut of Cleo bra. There's a boy short and a thong. Both fit nicely, but I'd size up in each - especially the thong.
  • The weakest elements of the Cleo bra persist: the straps are too thin (and not strong compared to the rest of the bra) and the back has only 2x2 hooks and eyes. This works fine for me because the band of the bra, wires and fabric (in addition to construction technique) give me adequate support. But, in a larger cup size - or in the case of heavier breasts / breasts of different shapes - both of these challenges can be significant. And they're both very resolvable! Mind you, that would involve money and the reason this brand is affordable is because it's somewhat no-frills.
  • The shape is fantastic: high, round and front-and-centre. Totally pin-up and not in any way minimizing. Mind you, bras that minimize tend to add 10 pounds (by compressing breast tissue and moving it to the side body and down towards the abdomen), so why would you want that??
  • The difference between the Ellis and the Melissa/Bella (and I'll need to wear it for a while before I understand the fit fully) is in the upper cup and the immediate centre front projection. That's why it works so well for me. My boobs jut straight out quickly from the breastbone (and are quite close set). Bras which provide immediate projection from the centre gore are my best friends! And, trust me, they're very hard to find. The lace is quite soft and open (though not stretchy like that of the Panache Jasmine). This makes it malleable for upper breast fullness, but not weak as stretchy lace can be if one's breast tissue is soft.
I'd say the fabric hand is more like the Bella than the Melissa but the fit is more like the Melissa than the Bella. Of these three bras, I sense I will continue to love the Melissa best - it's just spectacular - but I can tell that the Ellis has already edged out the Bella. The Bella is good, but it's a bit pointier and sturdier than either of the others. And I just don't dig turquoise as I thought I would.

Well there's an epic on a Wednesday afternoon. Wait till you hear what else I've bought!

Today's questions: Do you wear Cleo? Why or why not? If you wear it and you love it, is your shape similar to mine? Do you love this gorgeous pattern?? (Yeah, I know that one's leading.) Let's talk!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Finished Object: Claudia Pants, Take 3

Today, the bug-free lifestyle focus is on yarn. I keep my stash in a box, in ziploc bags, but it never hurts to shake everything out and ensure that all the bags are without any tears. Plus, I want to put some Kleenex dotted with cedar essential oil into each bag. People, I have gone through so much freakin' cedar in the last month, I cannot tell you...

But let's talk about the pants. Here's the thing. They're done. Actually, they're drying as I type. I decided to wash them after making them - something which never happens. I washed because they're a bit big. And on that note - how is it that these pants are still too big and they've got less stretch than any other fabric I've used to make them in the past?? Something is not adding up...

In case you're curious about the basic shape (but not the colour, which is apparently rather evasive), here they are:

Anyway, the thing is that they're basically flannel pants. Yeah, you read that right. I made pants that are essentially flannel. Sure, flannel with a bit of flair, but flannel-feeling all the same. They do not drape nicely. They do not contour with splendour. They don't have a ton of recovery.

Here's a shot that sort of captures the colour and texture, though really, the blue is actually quite deep and rich - not washed out as it seems here:

Before we get all sad about it, um, I do happen to live in Canada. I can assure you that, at some point - and probably in the next calendar year - I will have occasion to wish that I had a pair of pants in my wardrobe that are both chic and flannel-ish. So I'm not putting them on the lawn! But I won't be wearing them for a long time (I hope, please weather goddess).

Mind you, next sewing project - I'd really like it to be a spring-wearable winner.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

What T'will Be Will Be...

Yesterday, on my way to work I found a fabric moth. Y'all know about my bug phobia. Well, it doesn't apply to fabric moths (or most flying things, really). I smashed the shit out of that thing. Of course, it was the sign that I would once again need to shake out and review all of my fabric stash.

Just spent hours doing that. Um - it seems my late-winter fabric spree was epic people. I do not know how I've got so much yardage fitting into one tiny cupboard. Then, in addition to 55 yards of fabric, I've got notions up the yin yang, muslin, lingerie supplies and interfacing. I am officially finished with shopping for fabric for a very long time. Honestly, I have everything I could possibly ever need or want. (Actually, I have awesome fabrics - it's hardly upsetting to pet them, even as I feel vaguely overwhelmed.)

I am very grateful to say that all of my stash is whole and bug-free. I do intend to add cedar and lavender to the cupboard - and maybe to get these moth tent things my friend Nicole told me about. They're work on pheremones and mess with the reproductive cycle of the bugs. All natural, effective and odor-free!

One good thing about this seemingly endless exercise is that it has compelled me to pre-treat all of my washable fabric. When next I reach for it, it'll be all set to go. (Usually I have to factor washing and drying into my sewing experience.)

Mind you, it's derailed my sewing plans for the weekend - or delayed them, anyhow.

I've decided to make another pair of Claudia pants using the stretch cotton twill I recently bought at Fabrications. Note: This will be my third pair. The first I wear constantly. The second I put on the lawn (it was made with that hideous black Bengaline and was too big).

Here's the thing, I'm not sure that I like the twill. Don't misunderstand. It's a lovely fabric in the abstract (far lovelier than the photo below would lead you to believe). But, on washing it, the right side developed a definite brushed quality. I should say that it isn't napped - as far as I can tell - as the brushed quality isn't directional.

You can't see it in the pic, (which makes the twill look flat and grey - it's actually navy blue), but the right side almost looks like suede or velvet:

Peeps, I hate napped fabrics. Nubby fabric kind of creeps me out, not to mention that it picks up every bit of floating lint or hair (yuck). It reminds me distinctly of half of my wardrobe circa 1983. The thing that's saving this twill is that its brushed quality is very subdued. Mind you, all brushed fabrics seem to have one thing in common: they're stiff.

I do feel rather liberated though, to approach this fabric with adventure and not too much investment. It's got about 10 per cent stretch so I doubt it will create a finished product that's too big. And, who knows, I may discover a new-found love as I work with it.

Having said all this, if it doesn't thrill me, onto the front walk it goes. I don't have time to coddle. It's got to hit the mark or someone else can enjoy it on its merit.

The fabric is cut, marked and ready to go. I hope I have time to make the pants tomorrow - but if not, at least I'm proceeding. I've got to remember: it's all sewing. And every time I finish something - if I like it - I've got to find somewhere to put it. So slow is alright. I'm pacing myself with Chianti :-)

Today's questions: What do you think of napped fabric? Is velvet/suede/corduroy your fave thing ever? Does it remind you of nails on a chalkboard? Do you like brushed twill? Let's talk!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Arsenic and New Lace

Here's the truth: Mizutama shawl notwithstanding, I'm not really into lacework. Partly, I'm not into it because it looks dainty (which veers dangerously close to granny territory). Partly I'm not into it because it is dainty (though that shit can be STRONG). But really, I'm not into it because it's hard to do.

Don't misunderstand, the work is not beyond me (though it is beyond me after a couple of glasses of wine and, seriously, why can't I come to terms with this???). It's not even as hard as it looks, in many instances. But it's endlessly fussy. Yarn overs kind of suck. Sure, they make a pretty fabric, but at what cost?

It's not that I'm lazy. I spend a ridiculous amount of effort on fit (and the principles that contribute to it). I'd hazard to say that I spend as much time on a "standard" stockinette sweater as on a lace shawl, once I've accounted for the maths that sweater requires. Really, a lace shawl just happens. If you get the stitches right, keep on and one day, poof, there's a shawl. The sweater-in-process requires endless revisiting, remeasuring, refining.

You may note that most of what I makes falls into the single colour, single pattern, often-stockinette, category. Well-executed, I think these sorts of items make a huge statement. I'm not going to try to convince you that a well-fitted stockinette pullover is as fantastic as a fair-isle scarf or a gorgeous cabled cardigan. Arguably, a well-fitted, fair-isle, cabled cardigan is the best thing of all! But, if the complex thing falls short of the mark and the simple one hits it in the dot, I'll take something simple any day.

The fact is, I only have so much appetite for any given project. And arguably so much talent. Oh, and let's not forget about experience (talent's nerdy older sibling). All of which is to say that you won't be seeing another lacework shawl in these parts anytime soon. Not that I won't happily wear the one I've got...

But over to you... Today's questions: What technique really pushes your buttons? What do you avoid, either because you can't do it or you won't do it? What's your top priority when you make something (yarn-feel, finished object, ease vs complexity)? Feel free to speak in terms of any craft you enjoy. No need to limit the conversation to knitting.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Finished Object: A Shawl For Spring

I was thinking of calling this shawl "The Beacon" because I knitted it, in some way, to draw out the inscrutable spring:

Mizutama Shawl by Olga Buraya-Kefelian

I am very pleased with the result, if not the process. I'll speak to that process more in my next post, but for now let's just say, you won't be seeing a lot of new lacework in my knitting queue anytime again soon.

A luck would have it, Andrea and Sara were as intrigued by this pattern as was I - so much so that they suggested a mini KAL, just the three of us, to make a trio of candy-coloured spring offerings.
You will hear from those ladies, about their experiences, in their time so please stay tuned.

I will say, it was tremendously pleasant, in the midst of some maddening knitting, to know that I had company. We even bought our yarn together - for colour coordination! So there's solidarity in this knit-along.

About The Yarn

You know that I'm perennially positive about Madeline Tosh yarns, but I'm not really feeling this Merino Light. It's a single-ply yarn with lots of natural variation in thickness. I didn't find it weak (though it did get thin in some spots) but I did find it uneven - and stupidly splitty (a nightmare with lacework). It also dyed my hands for days. If you read the reviews of the yarn on Ravelry, you'll find a polarized community. Many corroborate my issues. Some experienced much more extreme cases of the same. Still others love this yarn to bits and don't understand what all the fuss is about. I think the batches vary wildly. In worst case scenarios, people haven't been able to wind the yarn without breakage or matting, so I suggest that you have your skeins wound at the store. Then, if you find there's an issue, you won't have trudged it all home.

Having said this, Sara loves Tosh Merino Light and she's used it many times. Moreover, how often can you make an item out of one skein of yarn, for $25.00? I cannot quibble with the colour, which is flat out gorgeous. I just hope it doesn't continue to bleed. (It didn't dye the water as much as I thought it would, given the amount of pink on my hands.)

The yarn blocks quite easily and well. It doesn't become a puddle of growing stitches when submerged in water. I used blocking wires and pins, which are non-negotiable if you want to achieve a triangular result.

For the most part, the finished fabric is even but there are a couple of errant stitches that seem to have kinked themselves out of place. I'm trying to ignore them.

About The Pattern

It's a good, clear pattern, though it does have a very strange way of instructing how to make the first polka-dot (if you use the bottom up method). I cannot fault the directions but I had endless issues with the stitch pattern - even as I forced myself to focus! Every other row I seemed to gain or lose a stitch at either end. It was maddening given all the mental effort I expended to ensure this wouldn't occur. I finally realized that it didn't matter. The issue wasn't visible as long as I caught up on the next row (I always did) and it didn't impact the polka-dot placement. Very fatigued at the end, I did actually fuck up the polka-dot alignment on my last lace repeat. Let me tell you, that's 2 hours I'm never getting back. With lots of sweat and concentration, I did pull it back from the edge. The benefit of such a repetitive pattern is that you start to understand how it works, how every stitch interrelates to all of the stitches around it. Unfortunately, this insight comes with hours of ripped back rows and half rows (a serious bitch when such a fabric).

Note that I used a smaller needle size than recommended, as I knit loosely, and I didn't want the stitches to be loose. There's already enough negative space happening in this shawl - it needs structure in its stitches. The result of this, compounded by the fact that I had 420 yards of yarn (vs the 455-475 yards that the pattern advises), is that my shawl is 2 repeats shorter than the pattern suggests and seems to be on the small end. It's not too small, but I wouldn't want it any tinier.

About The Finished Shawl

It's super pretty, peeps. Very feminine, but in downtown way. It falls beautifully and it gives a good amount of warmth for its weight. I can imagine wearing it with everything from jeans and a t-shirt to a skirt ensemble or a dress. If you like making lacework scarves, do not delay. No doubt you will benefit from having this in your wardrobe. It's great transportation knitting as the 4-row repeat is easily memorable (if not followable) and it's portable.

So, what do you think? Would you make it? Would you wear it? Does the colour appeal? Do you think a candy-pink shawl is nuts? In a good way? Let's talk!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Finished Object: The Svalbard Cardigan

You can tell how ambivalent I am about everything these days because I finished this thing 2 weeks ago, and I haven't bothered to take pics till now.

Here's the Svalbard cardigan:

No two ways about it, this thing does not photograph well. If you want a sweater to look cute in a photo, make sure it has waist shaping. Or wear it (which was never gonna happen what with how I look today.)

See how sweetly the ribbing mitres at the curve? That's some nice drafting...
You can see a bit more of the structure in the flat shots...
And here's that cute heart detail on the back yoke... I think you would agree, the error that cost me hours (while not gone) is not noticeable.
In the final analysis, I think this looks best on Andrea - but she swears it looks terrific on me.

Points of Interest
  • I could not have altered this to fit me any better. The shape is what it is - which is to say not hourglass. I made this as small in the shoulders and arms as I could (smallest size knit on yarn of smaller gauge than called for) and that's why it's not a total freakin' tent.
  • As it happens, though you can go crazy modifying the pattern any way you want: unadjusted, the sleeve width is dependent on the yoke size. The reason most people find the sleeves too large is because said sleeves are wide relative to the shoulder-width. Note: Altering the sleeves at the pick up row involves some tricky stitch pattern modification. I wouldn't do it. Since the whole garment seems to fit most people too large, I'd fix it at the get go by making a smaller size overall.
  • Know the properties of your yarn. I've knitted with Chickadee before so I know that it grows a lot when you wet block it, but it rebounds. With this pattern, you do not want to work with a yarn that doesn't recover well. In fact, the sponginess of my yarn will either work to give this garment a long life of shape-constancy, or it may work against it. There's a point to be made that a very stable yarn would be good. Note: There will be impacts of this choice, if you go with a smaller size.
  • I've said it before and I'll say it again: Unless you have a wide shoulders, a broad back and/or thick upper arms, you probably want to make the smallest size. Not a smaller size, the smallest. Or, if you can't bring yourself to do that, knit least 2 sizes smaller than you would normally.
  • Once you get past the underarm gussets, the rest of the pattern is very simple, if not totally quick. Mind you, getting to the underarm is fucking tricky. I don't know that the end-result warrants the effort, honestly, though I'm glad I undertook this challenge. It was a very interesting knit.
  • If you are short, squat, square, busty or very broad, chances are this sweater will not be the most flattering shape on you. Hey - I fall into one of those categories and I made this garment, nonetheless... And I like it, even if it's not going to be my go-to garment. It's chic with skinnies and boots.
So - what do you think? Would you make this? Would you wear it? Let's talk!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Simple Tutorial: Lavender Sachets

A while ago, my friend Ruth gifted me a lovely scarf. I wore it a few times (as you know, I love the scarves) but this one, made of organza, always had a bit too much body given all of the walking I do. I found it would untie easily and fluff up towards my face.

Alas, that's no reason to begrudge a lovely fabric. When I started the closet exercise - including reoiling my cedar blocks - I realized that my clothing would benefit from some lavender sachets too. All of the stash fabrics I considered, to construct some new sachets, were a bit dark, or tightly-woven (or both). Then it occurred to me that the organza scarf had the perfect properties. It was breathable AND pretty. And it would see much more use and exposure to me living in a new context.

So I did a bit of sewing and finished with these:

Aren't they pretty? And functional? I used seam binding as ribbon in such a way that you can place these over your hanger hook to keep the lavender fragrance (and its bug-repelling tendencies) close to hanging items.

I gave a few to Scott and made some for my mother, whose birthday is next week. Sorry Ma, if you happen to look at this post in the next 2 days, the secret's out.

I still have enough fabric cut to make about 15 more sachets. And those, once I get a new stock of lavender - will be for me!

How to make these:

In case you're wondering how to make these from a lovely, languishing scarf (or other fabric in your stash)...
  • Cut a rectangular strip of fabric - approximately 4 by 11 inches.
  • Fold a hem - wrong side to wrong side of approximately 0.5 inch at each upper (raw) edge (the two narrower of the raw edges).
  • Press to keep in place. 
  • Top stitch those hems (by hand or machine). 
  • Then fold the fabric in half, right side to right side. (The crease forms the base of the sachet. The wrong sides of the upper hems will be visible.)
  • Press in place.
  • Serge or machine or hand stitch the side seams.
  • Turn right side out.
  • Fill with fresh lavender.
  • Use seam binding or very thin/narrow ribbon - or string - to tie around the sachets. Double knot carefully.
  • All done.
Each one takes about 5 minutes to make using a serger and/or regular machine and there is NO waste. I did not overthink this exercise. I did not make a pattern. Each sachet is slightly different. They are not perfect, but they look very sweet, IMO. And when the lavender loses its scent, all you need to do is open the tie and replace it with new.
So, what do you think?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Random Things

OK, so I'm fighting off a spring cold. Given that I haven't had a cold all winter long (this winter), it's not so out of line, but I do hate that puffy, swollen, scratchy throat feeling. To complicate matters, I'm in a busy phase at work (meetings Monday and Tuesday) and I have an exciting dinner plan this evening so I must get better now.

On some sort of crazy whim, this morning I tried oil pulling (I do realize that isn't the most credible link). According to some, it's a means to improve the immune system. In truth, I don't know how swishing oil around my mouth for 10 minutes is going to forestall a cold but apparently it's also good for getting rid of migraines, teeth whitening and hormonal equilibrium. Admittedly, I've known about oil pulling since before Gwyneth P started promoting it, but the idea is so freakin' hideous, I've not been able to convince myself to try it. I also don't know - as a person with fairly significant TMJ - how it could possibly make that condition anything other than worse, but apparently it improves the jaw pain/clicks too. In my 10 minute experience with olive oil (I didn't have sesame or coconut lying around), I will suggest that my TMJ was entirely unexacerbated and my teeth did get whiter.

I don't sense it's going to be a regular part of my day cuz, ugh, disgusting!, but feeling unwell makes me do some pretty crazy things. Especially after this winter.

But to continue a few discussions:
  • My Ferragamos have been stretched but, when I tried them on at Novelty, before taking them home, I felt they could use a bit more width. Initially, I requested very subtle stretching, as I was worried about how 20+ year old leather might respond. However, the leather is entirely unphased, so I might as well have all the stretching I like. Alas, they won't be done till Monday so I cannot wear them tonight.
  • I sense that Amy Herzog is finally getting to a place that she can clearly articulate the Custom Fit process. In truth, I think this is a cautionary tale about how good ideas can be very nearly tanked by bad communications, but I'm keeping an open mind.
  • I finished cleaning the closet. There is one hanging item that is so badly eaten that it may not be salvageable. It's actually the one that started this whole spring cleaning process, one that I've darned before. In fact, it's the garment that got me on the darning bandwagon in the first place. For a sweater I love so much, I don't wear it often enough to keep it from the bugs. In my defense, it's an awkward length to wear under a coat and it's usually too warm when a coat isn't required. It's got a wearing window of, maybe, 2 months a year. For some reason, whatever was in my closet has basically eaten it to shreds and left everything else untouched. (OK, there were 2 other items with tiny holes - one wool and one synthetic?! but really, it's the cashmere "coat" that's toast.) I'm going to try darning one more time, after cleaning it with a shitload of cedar as there are 11 new holes to contend with. Of course, it's probably the finest cashmere in the entire fucking closet. If it cannot be saved, I'm chopping it up and keeping the panels that are undamaged. Mercifully, it's about the size of a small blanket so there should be enough to repurpose into something else.
  • A propos of closet cleaning, I've got another 25 items to put on the front walk when next the weather is sunny for more than 3 minutes. While I'm very nostalgic, I am in no way sentimental. At least half of those items are handmade things that I don't wear because a) I don't like the fabric b) I don't like the fit or c) in retrospect, I don't like the pattern. Fortunately, I no longer sew with fabric I don't like, my fitting has improved and I've become rather more selective about the garments I spend my effort on. We'll see if this is the last time I'm so willing to purge handmade items in this fashion - whether I've learned the lesson and now I will make fewer things (perhaps) but wear them all into the ground. Time will tell.
At any rate, that's all I've got right now. Too meh to pull out the exciting stories. Or maybe it's just that things are still in that limbo zone between a horrid winter and whatever comes next. Really, I'm praying for a beautiful spring and summer, but it's hard to take anything on faith at this point.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

On the One Foot...

OK, my new shoes arrived and they are all that.

If possible, they look better in real life than in the photo. I love them, but given that they're AAA narrow (not that my foot is wide), I need to go an extra step. (Ha!)

I should tell you, before purchase, I carefully measured these against my foot so I expected them to fit exactly as they do. In future, on the basis of the 2 pairs of vintage Ferragamos I now own, I'm likely to go to a 39.5 vs my usual Euro size 39. (Note: For new Ferragamos, not sure that would be necessary...) Anyway, these are the slightest bit too narrow. But I have a trick up my sleeve.

TOers, y'all know about Novelty Shoe Repair? They're on Yonge St., in the heart of the central business district, and they've been there for 80 freakin' years. The service is excellent and the workmanship is unsurpassed. Robert is going to stretch them by about half a size - more in width than length (though we all know how one is linked to the other) and I sense then they'll be perfect.

Man, the leather is fine. I'm oddly captivated by these twee little shoes. They're strangely empowering... And just to clarify, I now have my own pair of Ferragamo bow flats (in perfect condition) which, after stretching, shipping, tax and exchange rate (yeah, we've got to start thinking of that again) will have cost me $75.00. They retail at Holt's for about 500 bucks - before tax.

But let's move on to the next shoe-ish thing I have to tell you. And it's not pretty.

I mean, seriously. It's not pretty.

You know how I'm this woman of a certain age and practically everything is, um, out of sorts. Well, apparently, that applies to my feet too. In the last year said feet have lost some of their plumpness (collagen, I suspect) and, given that I walk miles a day, the impact is considerable. I've had a some nerve pain. Nerve pain ain't gonna fly.

People, I've got to start walking in sensible shoes. Lord. Have you ever tried to glance flirtatiously at an attractive guy while wearing ugly footwear? Is it even possible?

So I went to a store with a sensible shoe name and tried on everything. The assistance was laudable. The shoes were depressing.

Eventually I found myself at Cole Haan...

Mercifully, this pair fit and they are reinforced with Nike technology:

Cole Haan Trillby Driver shoes
They feel like runners but they look like rich lady shoes! OK, rich, older lady shoes but you can't have fucking everything... I know they'll look good with trouser jeans and, sock free, with skirts or shorts. I'm choosing to see them as "California-esque".

Sadly, I'm not ruling out the Merrells. And I sense there's a pair of Birkenstocks in my summer. The cute ones. (There are cute ones, right?)